Sonora Jha

Teoksen The Laughter tekijä

4 teosta 126 jäsentä 4 arvostelua

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I am a fan of academic satire, and this book is so well done. I laughed a lot, but Jha takes on serious issues. There are many, but among them are Islamophobia, the last desperate gasps of the White male stranglehold on the American higher education experience, the confusion between exploitative sexual dominance and actual power. I think it is fair to say the book does not have the ending readers are likely to be hoping for or expecting (though there is a glimmer of hope that in some imagined future that ending might come.). I won't share any specifics because the surprising twists and turns of the central story, and the more peripheral stories, are a lot of the fun, Trust that everyone involved is fleshed out and very human but not always super likable. A lot of the professional reviews I have read (I've read no reader reviews) focus in on Oliver's sliminess. He is slimy, a textbook narcissist, but he is also a man of his generation who has recently realized he is no longer relevant. That is harder than people might think and makes for a much more interesting tale. I don't think looking at him as a jackass comes close to summarizing his story. I would not befriend Oliver IRL, but I found him somewhat sympathetic and very complicated and interesting. The reviews I read similarly seem to look at Ruhaba as a moral beacon bravely defying the patriarchy, and I think that is entirely off-base. Ruhaba is faceted, there is a lot going on with her. The fact that she cannot sleep for thinking about Sandra Bland is one facet. The fact that she takes on many of the same behaviors as the old, crusty, White, male professors she seeks to topple, though in slightly different form, is just as important as the compassionate modern part. I raise this because if people have read professional reviews I think they are being misled by their reductive approach to these characters.

This is a really challenging story that offers no easy answers. I had two significant issues with the book (neither of which ruined my pleasure in the book, but both bugged me and took me out of the story.) The first is Adil, Ruhaba's teenage nephew who comes to live with her. He has become "of interest" to the gendarmerie because he is a Pakistani Muslim. He is seen as taking part in what would be considered standard teen mischief if carried out by a European White kid. Because he is Brown and from a religious and traditional family this truly innocent behavior is read as possible terrorism. As a result, his parents want to get him out of Paris. They send him to Seattle to live with Ruhaba until the heat dies down. Of course US law enforcement is even more interested that the gendarmerie had been, and they begin to investigate Adil the moment he steps on US soil. I liked Adil. He was smart and wise, but Jha never forgets that despite his intellect and wisdom he is also a child. My issue is that Adil is not dimensional, he is this sweet innocent flower. I really wanted more conflict for him. My second issue (which, again, did not ruin the read) was the constant references to the 2016 election. Jha hits too hard on the hubris of the centrist Democratic faithful who did not harbor any doubt that Hillary would be elected and who believed that everything would be fine if that happened. I am not saying this did not occur. I had someone close to me who stopped talking to me because I said I thought there was a strong chance Trump would win. It was as if she believed I might summon that end by speaking it aloud. Anyway... 2016 was a defining moment in America, and I like that Jha set this this in the days (and much of it just hours) just before the cataclysm of the Trump presidency. That said, she referred endlessly to the election. At every gathering people were watching coverage or lamenting Trump's buffoonery and stupidity but she never explicitly ties America's vilification of fact-based analysis, civility, competence, compromise, decency, and intellect to what is happening in the story. I understand the tie-in, but in 20 years no reader will.

All in all a challenging, funny utterly heartbreaking book written by someone who really understands the academic milieu and has been in a lot of committee meetings. (She totally nails that.) I would recommend this to most readers, but especially anyone to who works in academia.
… (lisätietoja)
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Narshkite | 2 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Jul 30, 2023 |
In this tenured English professor's account of what led to an incident involving a colleague who teaches law. Oliver Harding is fascinated by Ruhaba Khan, a much younger professor who comes from Pakistan and who wears a head covering. When her nephew arrives to live with her, Oliver sees his opportunity to form a connection. As a divorced man with an estranged adult daughter, Oliver has plenty of free time to spend with Ruhaba's nephew and he happily hires him to walk his dog and takes him on hikes, all with the intention of getting closer to her. But these are tense times at the university, with indications that the curriculum is being pushed away from the dead white guys, a change that would certainly affect a professor in late middle-age who gained tenure due to his focus on G. K. Chesterton. And Oliver is hearing hints that Rhuhaba is under investigation by the university and he's getting visits from the FBI, asking about her nephew.

Oliver is telling the story and he's more concerned with making himself look good than accuracy, we're talking Humbert Humbert levels of manipulation. It's a fun exercise to peer past the narrator to try to see the events as they really are. The reader learns quickly that Oliver is unreliable, but what about Rhuhaba? Is she as blithely unaware of Oliver's attitude towards her? And why is she under investigation by their university? Is it for the same reasons the FBI is interested in her nephew? Jha seems to delight in writing from the point of view of Oliver Harding and she doesn't pull any punches in this excellent campus novel.
… (lisätietoja)
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RidgewayGirl | 2 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Apr 25, 2023 |
This is an excellent story and well told, but has a number of issues as addressed below. The plot is narrated well and is engaging. I hated to put the book down when I had to stop reading and could hardly wait to pick it up again. The writing is excellent, but the book is filled with the author’s personal agendas.

The story is told in the first person from the perspective of Dr. Oliver Harding, a 56 year old English professor. He lusts after a colleague of his, Dr. Ruhaba Khan, a professor in the law school. Unfortunately, Harding’s love/lust is unrequited by Dr. Khan. She flirts with him to lead him on, but has no intentions of sleeping with him. Going any further with the plot would spoil the story, but there are quite a few surprises in store.

This would easily have been a 5-star book except for these issues. The author has a progressive woke agenda she pushes heavily in the book. She calls Donald Trump a “Klan clown,” and crams her left-wing agenda down the reader’s throat. Personally, I could not care less what her political views are, but all I want from a novel is to tell me a good story. Don’t try to sell me on your political agendas.

The dialogue was unoriginal and stilted. All the characters spoke alike. There is no way a 56 year old white man speaks like a teenager from Pakistan or a middle-aged Pakistani woman, both of whom are immigrants. The dialogue should have been more specific to the individual.

The characters were extremely stereotypical. The author seems to think that every middle-aged white man is obsessed with going to bed with every attractive woman they see. Not all men view woman as objects to be desired, controlled, and conquered. And, all white men are not consumed with owning and shooting a firearm. Many do not even own a gun. Sorry, Ms. Jha, not all men are like the ones you portrayed in the book.

Finally, the ending was totally out of character. Characters who had behaved a certain way for 300 pages suddenly act out of character simply so she can end the book quickly. The ending was ridiculous.

Were it not for these issues, this would be a 5-star book, but due to these problems with the book, the best I can give is 3-stars.
… (lisätietoja)
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dwcofer | 2 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Mar 15, 2023 |
While a lot of the advice is geared towards raising sons, Jha's own experiences will resonate with all mothers.
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bookwyrmm | Feb 25, 2022 |



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